Last night and early this morning didn’t involve much sleep. I woke at 11:00 pm to pee, at 1:00 am to rain and calf cramps, at 3:00 am just because, and finally at 5:30 am after an interesting dream with me involved with a sci-fi group of sex and murder. Then I had the choice to drive the wrong way on a one-way road and quickly exit the park or drive past the other campsites and along Laurel Lake – of course I chose the latter. All the other campers were parked in the close vicinity of the shower, amphitheater, and nature trail.
Through the morning fog with a crumb donut in hand I drive past a layered cemetery and a personal greenhouse before reaching the Empire State sign. While waiting at a stop light in Troy a man pulls up beside us and lets us know that we are far from home – farther than he thinks – as he sees the Montana plate on the back of the car, but are living in San Diego. He used to drive semi-trucks to the woods of the Big Sky Country. He wishes us a good visit and the light turns green.
I love the old architecture, and closed-in porches of wood and brick, of the cities of the Northeast – there is much history – and probably just as much lead, asbestos, and rusted pipes that make up the homes and businesses of the area. Then there’s the countryside and a barn with the year 1892 on the roof seen on our way to Mechanicville along the Hudson River that offers a beautiful reflection of the sky above it, the plants growing beside it, and the railroad track that crosses it on the north side of town.
Still north is the town of Stillwater where a blockhouse was built in 1927, for the 150th anniversary of the Battles of Saratoga, according to the detailed drawing by Thomas Anbury. It was the original visitor center for the Saratoga National Historic Park for over 40 years and we are headed to the newer one on a hill in the trees past the water fountain with the Notice: Water contains sodium in excess of 20 mg/L and should not be consumed by people on severely restricted sodium diets. The FDA considers anything sodium free if it contains less than 5 mg per serving.
Inside the museum are cannons, battlefield models, long musket rifles, and cufflinks from the American and British soldiers. Also on display is a leather pouch made of porcupine quills and other animal hair carried by the Oneida warriors that helped fight against the British. There is a driving tour that travels nine miles and has ten major stops by farms, forts, houses, trails, plenty of monuments, and a burial site.
A volunteer ranger, after putting away his liquid lunch, lets us in the Neilson House. Inside are two writing desks with papers, a candle, scissors, and inkpot with feather-ended pens; foldable beds made of wood and rope; shoe boxes and a chest; a fireplace with wooden stools; and up the ladder – more room for sleeping. It’s a beautiful place and I don’t want to imagine it covered in bloody bodies, but people have yet to figure out a peaceful way to share when religion, politics, money, land, and power are involved.
In the field is a little green spiny thing growing and either covered in dead leaves or dying itself. Its brown seeds are attached to a mass of thin strands – like a hair sample in the dyeing section in the beauty store – that will help carry them in the wind. Greatly contrasted is an orange caterpillar on gray pavement. We enjoy the grandeur of the park and its war memories – and being one of the most decisive battles in American and world history – but also the little things that make this place more unique to us.
Eight miles north is the Saratoga Monument in Schuylerville overlooking the National Cemetery and though we don’t know anyone in there personally we still find it worth looking at the extravagance of some of the tombstones and memorials left to remember someone who made a difference – or had a lot of money. Others have been buried with less decoration and had their effect on the world too. We are here to appreciate that – and to get to the top of the 155-foot monument which just happens to be closed today.
Maybe a bit upsetting, but I can’t expect every building I visit to open just for my arrival. I’m grateful that with fewer visitors the site is better preserved, then again, bones and flowers can’t do much damage above ground. We drive west to see the giant ballet slippers, brick and stone churches, and painted horses of Saratoga Springs. We stop to pick up dinner in Fonda at Sorrenti’s Pizzeria before getting on Hwy 90 and driving past Utica, Syracuse, and Rochester to find a campsite for the night.
We watched two boys keep on eye on SpongeBob SquarePants on the TV and their feet on the booth and tables while waiting for our pizza, mac-n-cheese bites, and garlic knots that we would eat on the road. The sunset is seen through fields of future groceries and we arrive at Darien Lakes State Park. California camping may cost a lot for tents, but at least the sites aren’t as strict.
Once in the little wooden booth the ranger informs us that we have a long list of questions to answer about our home, family, car, pets, and plans. Then she requests a proof of the dogs’ rabies vaccinations – are you fucking kidding me?! Ok, calm down. Luckily I needed them for entry into Canada and happen to have them with me. There needs to be more informative websites and brochures for these kinds of things. It was already after 8:00 pm, we wanted to get up early, and didn’t feel like sleeping at a KOA or hotel.
Seven dollars in randomly assessed taxes and a list of rules longer than my arm – and we have a primitive site for $19 – complete with basketball court and BBQ with boombox. I stayed in the car to talk with my dad for 25 minutes while Caleb got approached by two camp host ladies, that made Sparky bark, and then set up the tent. Pets aren’t allowed anywhere, not even the parking lot, and we have to carry their bag of shit out of the park with us – I hope they can hold it. We are still going to sleep with smiles on our faces. We had an excellent day and have a birthday to celebrate tomorrow – mine.